Rather than head south for her holidays, a Vancouver Island artist sticks to Canadian soil to find inspiration for her art.
Multiple award-winning contemporary realism painter Brandy Saturley has spent the past five years exploring Canada’s cities, nooks and crannies, and hidden secrets. She is displaying her reflections and interpretations in her exhibit Canadianisms: A Half Decade Inspired by Canada.
Twenty-seven of the 50 paintings she’s created will be on display in the Okotoks Art Gallery’s large gallery June 10 to Sept. 2, with an opening reception June 9 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“I’ve been travelling and collecting stories and meeting people across the country over the last five years,” said Saturley. “I’m telling stories that are symbolic. The symbols that I encounter on my travels would be perhaps a hockey mask, a bear skull, things that I find in my environment and in talking with people.”
For instance, the Spirit Sands sand dunes in Manitoba stood out for Saturley.
“I never would have thought there would have been sand dunes in the middle of Manitoba, so it was really interesting to experience that in the middle of an area where there’s thousands of lakes and farmland for miles,” she said. “It’s like being on another planet.”
Saturley has been inspired by people sitting on docks, exploring islands, canoeing on lakes and guiding sled dogs across the frozen tundra. Yet, when she started work on the exhibit, she was thinking about traditional Canadian icons like maple leafs, hockey and maple syrup.
“I really started to question is that really what we are about?” she said. “We are that, but are we more than that? I really wanted to explore the deeper sense of what Canada is.”
Having spent most of her life on Vancouver Island, Saturley said she didn’t have a real sense of traditional Canadian culture.
“The interesting thing about living on Vancouver Island is we are our own biosphere here,” she said. “I found I never connected with the stereotypical images of Canada on Vancouver Island. It’s summer here most of the time. I found a lot of Canadian flags in backyards, which you don’t see here as much.”
Traveling across Canada really opened Saturley’s eyes to a new world.
“It was really an education to get out and see how other people lived and whether that was true or not,” she said. “Indeed it was. I found a lot of racks of horns and skulls on the outside of people’s sheds.”
In addition to telling these stories using iconic figures, landscapes and compositions on canvas, the British Columbia artist began to paint them in a more simplistic style on the crates she was transporting the canvases in.
“I thought why not paint the outside and make that part of the exhibition,” she said. “They’ve traveled as much as I have and have been marked up and have addresses here and address there.”
The artist of 30 years has been painting acrylic for more than a decade, following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, who were both artists.
She began with black and white portraits, went into the film industry as a script supervisor and then delved into painting and as photography.
“Photography is a big part of my reference building for the paintings I create,” she said.
Saturley’s piece, Goalie’s Mask: Red, White & Dryden, was short-listed for the Canadian Olympic committee trophy for Sport and Art in 2014 and exhibited at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in Calgary.
When Saturley began painting Canadianisms, she didn’t have Canada’s 150th anniversary on her mind. During the past two years she realized it would be an ideal time to present and celebrate the collection.
And she has no plans to stop this unique exhibition soon.
“I want to travel Canada more,” she said. “There’s so many beautiful places in Canada and there are so many things to learn about this country. The cities have the culture and the education and the cosmopolitan and their own personalities. Even rural Canada is so important to explore and meet people because there are so many talented artists, storytellers and musicians.”
The Okotoks Art Gallery is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no cost to view the exhibits.
To learn more about Brandy Saturley’s work go to canadianpopart.squarespace.com